Sophomore quarterback Eliot Ming (12) threw three touchdown passes in the Cherokee Trail football team’s regular season finale and the Cougars tallied their most points (28) in a win that put them into a Class 5A state football first round playoff game against Rock Canyon on Nov. 4, 2022, at EchoPark Stadium. (Photo by Courtney Oakes/Sentinel Colorado)

AURORA | A capsule preview of the 2022 Class 5A state football first round playoff contest between Cherokee Trail and Rock Canyon scheduled for Nov. 4, 2022:

Courtney Oakes is Sentinel Colorado Sports Editor. Reach him at [email protected]: @aurorasports. IG: Sentinel Prep Sports


No. 22 Cherokee Trail (4-6) vs. No. 11 Rock Canyon (7-3)

Nov. 4, 7 p.m. at EchoPark Stadium

BREAKDOWN: Cherokee Trail and Rock Canyon will meet on the football field in the postseason for the first time. The programs will square off for the first time since the opening game of the 2019 season in which the Cougars topped the Jaguars 17-13. Cherokee Trail also won a non-league contest in 2018 (26-9) and in 2017 (24-14) and 2016 (19-14) when the schools were briefly in the same league, the Mt. Evans League. …Cherokee Trail has qualified for the postseason for a fifth consecutive time and has missed the playoffs only one time (2017) since 2005. The Cougars have won at least one game in three of their last four trips to the playoffs, with the lone exception a loss to Valor Christian in their first game in 2020 when the playoffs were shrunk to eight teams due to the coronavirus pandemic. …Rock Canyon is in the postseason for the second straight season and advanced to the second round last season. Prior to that, the Jaguars’ last season postseason appearance came in 2012.

CHEROKEE TRAIL: Justin Jajczyk — in his first season as head coach — guided a very young Cherokee Trail team to a 4-6 regular season record and a 1-4 mark in 5A League 4. The Cougars snapped a four-game losing streak with a crucial 28-23 win over Smoky Hill in their regular season finale in a game in which they started 11 sophomores. During the regular season, Cherokee Trail played seven opponents (No. 1 Cherry Creek, No. 4 Grandview, No. 6 Columbine, No. 8 Arapahoe, No. 17 Eaglecrest, No. 19 Chatfield and No. 20 Rocky Mountain) that qualified for the 5A state playoffs and finished 1-6 in those games, with the win coming in the season opener against Chatfield. …Cherokee Trail finished the regular season with its season-high in points (28) and averages 13.6 points per game, while it has allowed 22 points per contest while facing some top offenses. Sophomore QB Eliot Ming returned from injury for the regular season finale and threw three touchdown passes, which gives him 11 on the season to go with 1,072 passing yards. Senior WR Noah Greer led League 4 players in receiving yards with 611 and caught six touchdown passes while sophomore WR Peyton Sommers — a state championship-winning sprinter in track — has 321 yards receiving and three scores. Sophomore RB Noah Collins navigated some tough defenses for 722 yards rushing and scored four times. …Defensively, Cherokee Trail has a trio of players with 115 tackles or more, with senior S Kalib Davis leading the way with 125, just two ahead of senior LB Kadin Porter and with senior LB Ellis Williams not far behind with 115. Sophomore DL Raul Rodriguez paces the Cougars with four sacks. Cherokee Trail has forced 15 turnovers with 10 of them coming by way of interception as Davis is the leader there with four and five other players have at least one, while senior DB Maliek Jamison leads the way with eight passes defensed. …On special teams, Greer has been an effective kick returner and his punt return touchdown was the difference in Cherokee Trail’s win over Smoky Hill. Junior P Nate Gilmore has averaged 41.5 points per punt.

ROCK CANYON: Coach Kevin Meyer’s Jaguars finished the regular season with a 13-10 loss to ThunderRidge — their third loss in their last four games — that put them in fourth place in 5A’s League 5 standings. During the regular season, Rock Canyon played five opponents (No. 2 Valor Christian, No. 8 Arapahoe, No. 9 ThunderRidge, No. 13 Mountain Vista and No. 18 Poudre) that qualified for the 5A state playoffs and finish 2-3 in those games with wins over Poudre and Arapahoe early in the season. …Rock Canyon averaged 28.4 points per game on the season — with its high of 40 points coming in the season-opener — while it allowed 15.6 per contest. The run-heavy Jaguars have a trio of players that all have at least 349 yards rushing, while senior RB Aidan Duda is the workhorse with 1,396 yards rushing and 12 touchdowns. Next is senior WR Dean Chisholm with 589 yards and three touchdowns and senior QB Luke Wennogle with 349 yards and six scores. Wennogle has only 108 passing attempts on the season and threw for four touchdowns against six interceptions. When the Jaguars go to the air, senior TE Deandre Horn has been the primary target with 314 yards receiving and two scores. …Defensively, senior LB Ryland Mill is the team’s leader in tackles with 71, followed closely by junior S Austin Bowker (69) and junior LB Brady Campbell (66). Senior LB Lukas Gunther has been a pass-rushing force with 9 1/2 sacks and a total of 16 tackles for loss, while Rock Canyon has five other players with multiple sacks. Bowker, Campbell and senior S Nathanial Watson share team-high honors with two interceptions apiece. …On special teams, Chisholm and Horn give the Jaguars threats in the return game, while senior PK Breck Saenger gets regular use and has been successful on 10 of his 13 field goal attempts on the season with a long of 47 yards.

WINNER GETS: The Cherokee Trail-Rock Canyon winner advances in Quadrant 4 of the 5A bracket into a second round contest against No. 6 Columbine, which had a first-round bye.

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